Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Nanomaterials — The Answer for a Sustainable Tire Industry?

A recent report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) says that the use of new nanomaterials in tire production could help further the sustainability of the industry and reduce the environmental impact of vehicles, provided the environmental, health and safety risks of the technology are managed carefully.

The *Nanotechnology and Tyres: Greening Industry and Transport *report highlights the potential of the nanomaterials and analyzes challenges for their safe and sustainable introduction into the tire industry. These nanomaterials have the potential to decrease tire rolling resistance (improving fuel consumption and CO2 emissions) and lower wear resistance (increasing tire lifetime) while maintaining wet grip and existing safety levels.

However, a supporting framework and relevant tools are needed to assess their economic, social and ecological impacts - particularly industry-specific guidance to assess the environmental, health and safety risks at various stages of products’ development. The OECD report provides a risk- management framework to enable site-specific or company-specific assessments and the development of risk-management strategies.

The report was originally proposed to OECD and supported by the Tire Industry Project (TIP) of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

Philippe Fonta, Managing Director of the TIP project, said: “Having such a respectful institution as the OECD, concluding a two-year multi-partite project by, on the one hand, highlighting the potential of new nanomaterials on the sustainability of the tire industry and on the other hand, providing a guidance for risk assessment for the use of nanotechnology in our sector, is a great achievement that we welcome. It sets the basis for the safe and responsible introduction of these promising technologies while taking full consideration of their socio-economic and environmental impacts.”

The report also provides insights into the status of nanotechnology innovation and the drivers of innovation in the tire industry; the economic and social costs and benefits of using nanotechnology in tires; safe use of new nanomaterials at all stages of their life cycles; identification of tools and frameworks supporting decision-making at various stages of product development; and facilitation of outreach and knowledge transfer on the safe use of new nanomaterials.

It calls for policy action to support research and the commercialization of nanotechnology research results to encourage responsible innovation in the sector. The report emphasizes the importance of collaboration between governments and industry to address specific challenges raised by the introduction of new nanomaterials in different industry sectors.

Nanotechnology has been in the news in other sectors as well. IBM recently announced that along with Singapore’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, they have cracked the code for safely destroying the antibiotic-resistant and sometimes-deadly superbug MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus). The nanomedicine breakthrough converts common plastic materials such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) into non-toxic and biocompatible materials designed to specifically target and attack fungal infections.

In other tire-innovation news, researchers at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company announced in 2012 that using soybean oil to make tirescould increase tread life by 10 percent and replace seven million gallons of petroleum-based oil each year. In addition, the company found that rubber compounds made with soybean oil blend more easily with the silica used in building tires, which is expected to improve plant efficiency and reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. As of March of this year, Goodyear has filed patent applications and testing to qualify soybean oil for tire tread applications is expected this year, according to the United Soybean Board. The Board says Goodyear hopes to completely replace all petroleum-based oils in its tires with soybean oil, which could amount to roughly 54 million pounds of soybean oil per year.

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